- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Back Pain?
Stretches for Lower back Pain
Back Pain Causes and Symptoms
Back pain is an "illness in search of a disease"
(Williams & Hadler)
Back pain is a common problem that affects most people at some point in their life. Almost 80% of people in the UK will suffer lower back pain. Fortunately; most episodes of back pain are mild and self limiting, around 90% are resolved within six weeks.
Back pain cost the UK in the region of £5 billion a year in disability benefit, the exact amount of money the NHS spends on back pain is unknown. Lower back in early pregnancy is not uncommon, about 1/4 of all pregnant women suffers from lower back pain at some point during their pregnancy.
31 million Americans experience lower back pain. 50% of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Back pain is said to be the single most common reason for missed work, and is thought to be the second most common reason for visits to the doctor, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
Americans spend over $50 billion each year on back pain, but specialists say most of the traditional treatment are at best ineffective and in some cases can actually worsen the symptoms. Most cases of back pain are mechanical, and are not as a result of a serious condition.
What Causes Back Pain?
The back is made up of a complicated structure of bones, ligaments, joints and muscles. 90% of back pain are caused by a simple injury such as strain or sprain to the muscle, tendon or ligament, although painful, it is not necessarily serious. The pain may be triggered by;
- Bad posture during sitting or standing,
- Bending awkwardly,
- Lifting incorrectly,
- Slouching in a chair
- Repetitive movement,
- Driving for long periods
- Over use of muscles.
- Sport injuries
- Psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain
Symptoms of Back Pain
Acute Back Pain
Pain often occurs suddenly after lifting something heavy, it can also develop slowly after years of poor posture. Some people experience back pain suddenly, for no apparent reason, they simply wake up one day with a sore back, that eases when lying flat but worsens when coughing, moving or sneezing.
Lower Back Pain
Back pain can be experienced anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips, but is most commonly felt in the lower back. It can be acute, starting quickly or suddenly, it can range from a dull constant ache, to a sudden sharp pain making movement difficult, but may improve after a few days or weeks. Often, without the use of medical intervention. 50% of people will feel better within 2 weeks, and 90% between 6 to 8 weeks. However, if the condition does not improve after three days, medical attention may be required. Doctor should be seen, if regular episodes of back pain persists for more than six weeks.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain refers to pain that have persisted for over three months, like acute back pain, it is also usually caused by strain or sprain in the region of the back. In chronic back pain, the pain and distress lasts for much longer, and have a huge impact on daily life. Chronic back pain can range from mild to severe, depending on other contributing factors such as depression and previous experience of back pain.
Chronic back pain usually require treatment, this can be in the form of medication or physiotherapy, but generally, the body will heal its self. It is important to stay active, but in the case of severe and persistent pain, medical advice and intervention will be required for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
There are several warning signs, known as red flag signs, an indication that back pain may be caused by a serious condition which requires medical attention, they includes:-
Fever with temperatures of 38 degrees or above
Unexplained weight loss
Swelling of the back
Persistent back pain that does not ease after lying down
Pain in the chest or high up in the back
Pain down the legs and below the knees
Pain caused by recent trauma or injury to the back
Loss of bladder control
inability to pass urine
Loss of bowel control
Numbness around genitals, buttocks or back passage
Pain that is worse at night
People who are experiencing these symptoms should contact their GP or health provider as a matter of urgency. Pain in the upper back, neck, shoulders and legs although perceived as back pain may also be caused by other conditions as follow :-
Pain in lower back radiating down the buttocks and into one or both legs, may be a symptom of Sciatica. This usually occurs when the jelly-like substance within the disc that separates the vertebrae, (bone of the spine) bursts or pushes out of the disc, also known as herniated disc, irritate the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve can also be irritated by swollen muscles, joints or ligaments.
- Pain or soreness in lower back, muscle weakness, tight muscles, lost of bowel or bladder control, pain during urination may be a result of a Slipped Disc
- Back pain, buttock pain, swollen joints, tendons and extreme tiredness are common symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Pain and stiffness of the shoulder, which makes it difficult to dress, drive or sleep, could be sign of Frozen Shoulder
- Neck pain and stiffness, headaches and lower back pain following an accident are common symptoms of Whiplash
Back pain can be as a direct result of disease in the organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots or bone loss.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight
- Stay active, with guidance from doctors, physiotherapists chiropractors
- Before exercising and other physical activities, always warm up or stretch
- Maintain proper posture
- Wear low heeled comfortable shoes
- Sleep on mattress of medium firmness, help to minimize any curve in the spine
- When lifting, use the knees, keep object close to the body and do not twist when lifting
- Stop smoking, smoking reduces blood flow, depriving the spinal tissue of oxygen and nutrient.
I know only too well from personal experience just how debilitating and frightening, the experience of back pain can be. However; the body does heal, and it is important to stay active and positive. With the help of physiotherapy treatment such as stretches for lower back pain and advice, chiropractic care, yoga, exercise and diet, medical supervision and advice, Back pain can be managed and even prevented.
In the future this condition that is affecting so many people and costing so much, will be seen as a thing of the past.
Back pain Treatment on the NHS with Acupuncture
Physiotherapist in the NHS treat over 1.3 million people for lower back pain each year, but research shows that there is only weak evidence to support the effectiveness of this treatment. International guidelines vary but the consensus is that patients experiencing lower back pain should remain physically active and prescribed appropriate analgesics.
A research study from University of Sheffield, 2005, on the benefits of offering acupuncture care to patients with persistent non-specific chronic back pain, found that acupuncture care alongside conventional primary care gained more long-term relief from pain than patients who are only offered traditional care.
The study concluded that traditional acupuncture care delivered in a primary care setting was safe and acceptable to patients with non-specific low back pain. And that acupuncture care was significantly more effective in reducing bodily pain than usual care at 24 months follow-up, and that GP referral to a service providing traditional acupuncture care offers a cost-effective intervention for reducing low back pain over a two year period.
Based on the research findings, the recommendation to the commissioners of musculoskeletal services would be justified in considering making GP referral to short courses of traditional acupuncture care available to primary care patients with persistent non-specific low back pain.
Currently, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends acupuncture as a treatment option only for lower back pain. The use of acupuncture within the NHS remains limited with most patients accessing the treatment through private means. The cost of acupuncture varies between practitioners with initial session costing around £35 to £60.
What is Acupuncture
Acupuncture is based on the ancient belief that "life force" or energy, called Qi, flows in channels through the body known as meridians. Proponents of this treatment believe that when Qi cannot flow freely through the body, illness results. Acupuncture is thought to be able to restore the flow of Qi and thereby restores the body back to health.